Walking into the slowing filling Union Transfer in Philadelphia, Nils Frahm’s stage setup immediately grabs your attention. It’s a motley collection of something like a dozen keyboards, acoustic and electronic, from a toy piano to grand piano; pipe organ to synthesizers, plus assorted synthesizer modules and processing units including what looked a couple of old tape delay machines. Some of it looks futuristic. Some looks like he just pulled it out of the attic. He has these set up in two separate cockpits of instruments and in a two-hour performance he danced between them, orchestrating a ballet of movement and sound.
Frahm is a 35-year-old German composer whose works to date have ventured into idiosyncratic solo piano releases, electronic orchestrations and curious experiments. He sits among the new music composers of his generation like Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter and Hauschka. On his latest album, All Melody, he embraces Tangerine Dream-style electronics, ambient chamber music moods, and minimalist momentum. Live, he also brings an exuberance that belies all of those designations.